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WSP trooper killed during traffic stop near Gorst

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on Feb. 23, 2012 at 6:49 am |
February 23, 2012 2:26 pm

UPDATED at 2:23 p.m.

A possible suspect in the fatal shooting of a Washington State Patrol trooper early today has died after shooting himself while a SWAT team closed in.

Investigators had received a tip on where to find the registered owner of a pickup the trooper had stopped before he was shot.

“As our SWAT team made their approach they heard a single gunshot coming from the house,” Kitsap County sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Dickinson said. “They found a male subject with a single gunshot wound.”

The man, identified by Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer as Joshua Blake, was taken to Tacoma General Hospital. He died of his injuries this afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Boyer did not call Blake a suspect in the shooting of trooper Tony Radulescu  and couldn’t confirm Blake was the owner of the pickup truck that had been pulled over in a traffic stop. Sheriff’s investigators stressed the investigation was still early.

Blake,28, has a criminal record that includes a 2007 conviction in Pierce County for meth manufacturing. He also had threatened to harm a law enforcement officer in the past , which was noted in his state Department of Corrections case file, agency spokesman Chad Lewis said.

Radulescu, 44, was assigned to the Bremerton detachment and had spent his entire 16-year in the district, a Washington State Patrol press release stated.  He joined the agency in December 1995. (Visit his Officer Down Page here to leave a remembrance.)

Tony Radulescu/Courtesy of WSP

“We’ve lost a co-worker, and the citizens of Washington have lost a humble public servant,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “Tony was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around, including me. I truly enjoyed
working with him.”

Radulescu had stopped a pickup truck just before 1 a.m. on SR 16 near Gorst. The reason for the stop wasn’t immediately clear.

Radulescu radioed his location as well as the license plate number of the truck to dispatchers. When he didn’t respond to status requests, a Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy went to the scene and found the mortally wounded Radulescu on the ground near his car.

He was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma where he was pronounced dead.

In the hours since, law enforcement officers from throughout the region searched for the gunman and the truck. A Bremerton police officer spotted the F-350 pickup truck, abandoned, three to four miles away. The truck was on long, wooded driveway, trooper Russ Winger said.

A police dog searched the area around the truck but did not find the driver. Troopers were talking to residents in the area, Winger told KING 5.

Joshua Blake/Courtesy of DOC

A SWAT team, acting on a tip, responded to a home in south Kitsap County shortly after 9 a.m. where they expected to find the owner of the truck. As they closed in, they heard a single gunshot and went into the house, where they found Blake wounded. The house was the address listed on the truck’s registration, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Seattle Times reported that a  relative of Blake’s was emotional when reached by telephone Thursday morning.

“We’re really sorry for the officer and the family,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. She also declined to discuss Blake.

According to court documents, Blake was arrested in June 2006 by Pierce County sheriff’s deputies who were watching several local pharmacies for purchases of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient of meth. Blake told deputies he bought the cold medicine pills at small stores in Port Orchard and Tacoma and gave them to a meth cook, charging documents state.

“Blake admitted he was unemployed and purchasing the pills to make money,” court documents state.

Blake was sentenced to more than two years in prison for the conviction. He also has three convictions in Kitsap County fourth-degree assault, malicious mischief and violation of a protection order.

After his release from prison, the state Department of Corrections supervised Blake in the community from their Bremerton field office, spokeswoman Selena Davis said. Based on his criminal history, he was considered a high risk to commit a violent crime, meaning he fell under stricter supervision requirements.

Davis described Blake as non-compliant with the conditions of his supervision and he spent 47 days in Kitsap County Jail for failing to report to his community corrections officer and failing to complete a chemical dependency program.

Blake’s supervision ended in August 2011.

“We cannot extend supervision because of violations,” Davis said.

Lewis said Blake’s case file included information that he had threatened to harm a law enforcement officer in the past. Such threats are not uncommon and can result in closer supervision, Lewis added.

The Seattle Times reported that Theresa Meyers, who lives next to Blake, said that the rural property has long been known by neighbors as a place to avoid.

“They have a locked gate with the ‘keep out’ sign. They have a dogs and you hear rifles being fired,” Meyers told the Times. “When we first moved in there were people who would come in all day and night to that property, but then there was a drug bust at that property and it slowed down for a while.”

Blake, a carpenter by trade, had been doing well and working with his father in the family business, called Blake Enterprise, until his father died last year, said Sean Jeu, who lives next door to Blake.

The 44-year-old Radulescu was a military veteran and a father. His son is in the military. He was well-known in the community and made presentations at local schools. The Kitsap Sun wrote about Radulescu in 2007.

“The entire community is hurting today,” Batiste said. “There is nothing routine about what we do.”

Winger said he’d known the trooper for more than 14 years and described Radulescu as a close, personal friend.

“This is a very sad day for law enforcement and members of the community alike,” trooper Guy Gill tweeted. “We all lost a great man. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Sheriff Boyer said he’d known Radulescu since he joined the State Patrol.

“The thing that stood out the most about him was his positive attitude,” Boyer said. “Tony had a smile on his face the first day he came in. He always had a smile on his face.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire issued a statement this morning.

“There is nothing more difficult than losing someone who puts their life on the line to protect the lives of others,” the statement read. “Today’s tragedy is yet more proof that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. Our law enforcement officers selflessly serve our communities to ensure our safety and for that, we should all be eternally grateful.”

A motorcade of police vehicles escorted the body of Radulescu this morning from the St. Joseph Medical Center to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy will be conducted.

As is routine, law enforcement officers will stay with their fallen brother around the clock until he is buried. Funeral arrangements were pending.

Radulescu is the 27th to be killed in the line of duty in the Washington State Patrol’s history. The last trooper to be killed in the line of duty was James Saunders, who was shot Oct. 7, 1999. The 31-year-old Saunders was conducting a traffic stop in Pasco when he was killed.

He is the second officer to be killed in the Puget Sound region this year. Margaret Anderson, a law enforcement park ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, was killed while manning a checkpoint Jan. 1. The gunman was later found dead on the mountain.

Staff writer Rob Carson and The Seattle Times and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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